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Rocker Panels

Sun Performance Rocker Panel Guards

When I first brought my CJ home, it had these chrome side steps made by CARR. The steps were mounted to the bottom of the tub’s floor, below the door. I didn’t really like them, but didn’t take them off right away. Then I took the CJ out for the first time to the Eagle Lakes area, the start of the Fordyce Creek Trail. When I returned home, my steps were bent upwards! Before the motor was cold, they were removed.

The next step in the CJ’s evolution was the purchase of nerf bars. I bought them sight unseen through a magazine advertisement. When they arrived, my guess was the same nerf bar was made for both the CJ7’s and the Wranglers (which have the extended front fender flair). The nerf bars were awfully wide! I installed them anyway, and fortunately I did so using the bolts rather than having them welded-on. Eventually, they got the better of me and I took them off. So without any protection along the lower section of the CJ, it was just a matter of time...

After several "hits" along the lower edges (and after the paint’s clear coat finally disappeared) it was time to do something about this lack of protection. I decided after I'd repaint the Jeep and fix the dents, I wanted a smooth steel rocker guard. I didn’t want the diamond plate look, and I didn’t want something made from aluminum. At first, this took me toward the guards made by Currie Enterprises. I’d seen pictures of their guards extended protection along the underside and was impressed by this concept. But I found there weren’t any shops in my local area that had them on hand, and I was hoping to avoid mail order costs.

Bent extended front fender "lip"  Right rocker - ready for paint.  Beat-up right side ready for rocker.jpg (55077 bytes)  

While pondering this slight dilemma, I participated in a treasure hunt put on by the local club, the Grass Valley Four Wheelers. It was that day I noticed that several of their members had the Sun Performance guards on their Jeeps. I had the opportunity to see the guards up close, and that’s when I changed my focus.

The Guards Up Close

As can be seen in the photos above, the Jeep CJ’s have a little extended lip behind the front fender wells that extends back along the rocker panel for about five inches. Several rocker guards (like those from Off Your Rocker) have a notch cut out of them, which avoids this extended lip. I personally didn’t care for that design. 

Rocker guard covering repaired "lip"  The selling point to me for the Sun Performance guards is their incorporation of an arch into the lower edge of the guard. This arch allows the guard to cover the lip, and thus, they protect more length of the rocker panel. Plus, I believe the arch is a structurally stronger design than a flat surface.

Installing the Guards

SP Rocker-on table.jpg (46911 bytes) Each guard weighs about 27 pounds.  They are made from 3/16ths steel and are very stout!  The guards come with a satin-black powdercoat finish.
SP Rocker-on jacks.jpg (43973 bytes) Next, place the guard on a pair of jack stands to hold them in place.  Try to install the guards as far up against the bottom of the tub as possible.  Check to see if there are any bolts sticking out from the bottom of the tub that could be in the way (but ignore the seatbelt bolts).
SP Rocker-drilling.jpg (27642 bytes) Installing the guards requires you to drill holes all over your Jeep – about 20 in all!  The instructions say to hold the guards in place, mark all the holes, remove the guards, and then center-punch and drill all the holes.  Toss those instructions aside! I found it was much easier to hold the guards in place, then simply use the holes in the guards as a template for drilling.  Doing this resulted in no wandering drill bits and fewer overall steps (quicker). Just be careful not to enlarge the mounting holes in the guards – which should be easy not to do.  (You can also see the two end holes were drilled first.  Then bolt the guard in place to ensure it doesn't move as you drill the remaining holes.)
SP Rocker-bolting.jpg (34372 bytes) The top side of the guards are held in place with stainless steel allen-head button bolts.  Inside a large flat washer and a nut are used. 
Underside of rocker guard. On the bottom edge, there are three holes that come up through the floor. The front and rear holes require a puck (provided) as a spacer between the guard and the body.  I felt the middle bolt needed to be shortened, as it would have come up too far through the floor on the inside of the cab.

Impressions...

Back edge of the rocker guard, before rear fender well.  The job resulted in a nice and strong upgrade to the Jeep.  The guards protect the entire rocker panel from fender well to fender well.  This is one of the most gratifying projects I have done.  

FCJT-winch1-bottom-tod.jpg (60156 bytes)  After having these guards on my CJ (the brown one) for three summers now, I have had many an opportunity to field-test these.  I can say without a doubt, they are well worth the money.  They do not hinder the ground clearance.  You can even use them to jack the Jeep up from the side!  If you play in rocks, seriously consider some rocker panel protection!